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Formerly the Newton-Needham Chamber

Can this help save downtown Wellesley?

This summer, just as the COVID state of emergency was being lifted, we asked our members to tell us what they thought would be the biggest impediments standing between them and a successful finish to 2021.
Even then attracting and retaining workers was their top concern, followed by traffic, inadequate public transportation, insufficient parking and our region's housing shortage.
None of that was really surprising. All were problems before the pandemic too.
But two new issues figured prominently that weren't present when we conducted similar member surveys in prior years:

  • More than half of all respondents told us they were concerned about the impact of COVID on the health and mental health of their employees.
  • Nearly as many recognized the need to make their workplaces more diverse and inclusive as critical to success this year (more on that below).
Yesterday the state Senate rolled out a plan to invest significantly in the former.
The ARPA-funded legislation would, among other steps, require free annual mental health exams just like annual physical exams, and would carve out nearly $130 million to recruit 200 mental health professionals.
It would also require insurance companies to pay mental health clinicians rates on par with primary care providers, reports the Globe’s Tonya Alanez.

Another blow to Wellesley's downtown
Wellesley’s downtown shopping district keeps getting hammered.
Just days ago, CVS announced that it will close its Central Street location for good, after at least four decades on the street.
And effective today, Starbucks has closed its Central Street location through Jan. 30.
All this in a year that saw other nationally and regionally known brands – the GapPeets and BGood – leave town, along with too many cherished local merchants.
Starbucks' shutdown is all about the staffing shortage that's hampered so many businesses. In this case, the closure is said to be temporary because operators hope to be able to re-staff when Wellesley College students return from winter break.

The good news is two new restaurants -- The Laughing Monk Café and a new venture by Derek Brady – are on track to open on the street. And property owner Linear Retail plans to subdivide the GAP and CVS spaces to make them attractive to those seeking smaller floorplans.
Still, the growing number of vacant store fronts is devastating.
These ideas can help
Next week, Wellesley’s Select Board will consider some changes that could go a long way toward revitalizing downtown and other commercial districts.
They’ll be considering revisions to long outdated dining/alcohol regulations that have been holding back new restaurants from opening there and have hampered existing operators from being successful.
First and foremost is the town’s archaic “intent to dine” rule, which prohibits customers from having a drink without also ordering "a meal." 
Another rule limits bar seating to 10 percent of capacity. 
Dining habits have changed. Customers enjoy sitting at bars to socialize, watch sports and for more informal dining.
These moves, along with an effort approved last spring to allow small boutique restaurants to serve alcohol for the first time, are the kinds of changes that can help bring foot traffic and vibrancy back downtown.
The Wellesley Select Board will hold a hearing on a menu of proposed changes on Monday (Nov. 15) at 6 p.m. Details here.
We commend town leaders for looking to make these changes.
Honoring those who’ve served
Our communities will honor the men and women who’ve served our nation tomorrow (Thursday) at these Veterans Day events.
  • Newton 11 a.m. ceremony at the American Legion, Post 440 on 295 California St.
  • Needham 11 a.m. ceremony at Memorial Park.
  • Watertown 9 a.m. Veterans’ Day Breakfast at Shutt Detachment, on 215 Mount Auburn St.
  • Wellesley 11 a.m. ceremony in front of the War Memorial at Wellesley Town Hall
Redistricting plan could impact Watertown’s Devaney
Would a proposal to redraw the state’s Governor’s Council map end of Marilyn Petitto Devaney’s 22-year grip on a council seat?
Mass Alliance Executive Director Jordan Berg Powers yesterday urged the Redistricting Committee to amend its draft map and create the state's first Governor's Council district with a majority of people of color, according to Chris Lisinski at State House News.
The proposed minority-majority district could include Watertown (Devany’s hometown) as well as part of Boston, Revere, Winthrop, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett and Belmont.
Because the Governor's Council vets and confirms judicial nominees, giving people of color more of a say in its membership could help address "systemic racism in the judicial process" and probation oversight, Powers said.
Devaney, a former Watertown Town Councilor, has represented District 3 since 1999 and been in the middle of many controversies. Her current district includes Newton, Watertown and other suburban communities.
It takes a Village
Small Business Saturday is happening Nov. 27 and The Village Bank wants to make it easy for you to shop small that day in Newton.
The bank will be covering the cost of every parking meter in Newton that day as part of an initiative to promote shopping locally.
Other need to knows
  • Join Amplify Latinx for the PowerUp 4.0 Latinx Business Summit on Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. to celebrate the diversity and contributions of our Latinx business community. Details.
  • Artists who live or work in Newton are wanted to participate in FenceARTa year-round public art project. Each year 20 jury-chosen works will display their work printed on outdoor banners. During the year, they rotate to 5 Newton locations. Details. Deadline is Dec. 1.
  • Place your orders ASAP for the Needham Exchange Club’s annual Holiday Fruit & Chocolate Sale. Every dollar raised benefits the Needham area community and in particular scholarship programs for students. Order online.
Is your company looking to step up your DEI efforts? 
The chamber is forming an affinity group for owners and managers looking to explore ways to make their workplaces more diverse, equitable and inclusive.
Each month, this group will get together to discuss best practices and challenges relative to hiring, staff development, purchasing, customer service or other matters through a DEI commitment.
It's open to chamber member owners and managers at businesses or nonprofits with ten or more FTEs. Contact Tiffany Chen if you meet that criteria and are interested in learning more.
Another threat to following municipal news
Staff and other budget cuts at our local newspapers have made it really difficult to follow what’s happening inside our city and town halls, schools and other local institutions. It’s also left voters without a neutral place to learn about candidates for local office.
At least we have cable access TV, right?
Not if the exodus of customers cancelling their cable TV subscriptions continues.

That’s because cable franchise fees that are part of every subscriber’s monthly bills covers major portions of these stations' (known as Public, Education and Government channels, or PEG channels) operating costs.
Lillian Eden at MetroWest Daily News recently took a look the challenges facing the PEG channels we all take for granted.

Women & Power list recognizes chamber members
Five chamber member business were recognized by the Boston Globe this weekend for being women-led in its Women & Power 2021 issue: Wellesley College (Paula​ A.​ Johnson, president), Eastern Bank Foundation (Nancy Huntington Stager, president & CEO), Elaine Construction (Lisa ​B. ​Wexler, president), Hollister Group (Kip Hollister, founder and CEO) and Lasell Village (Anne​ E. ​ Doyle, president).
That same Woman & Power issue had an inspiring essay by chamber friend Latoyia Edwards, about why she now wears braids on the NBC10 morning newscast and what the decision meat to not just to her, but to Black girls and women.
And today we're announcing that Edwards will be joining us one week from this morning – Weds. Nov. 17 at 10 a.m. – at the chamber’s virtual Fall Business Breakfast when she will sit down with star scientist-entrepreneur Dr. Robert Langer for a fireside chat.
All event registration proceeds will directly support our "Nourishing" program to support local restaurants and those facing food insecurity in our communities.
What's that? You haven't registered yet? Do so here.

That’s today’s need to knows unless you need to know 
what’s the matter with kids these days.
Our deepest thanks to those who've served our nation. Be back Friday.
Greg Reibman (he, him)
Charles River Regional Chamber

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